The Maine Department of Education has partnered with T-Mobile to expand efforts to provide internet access and devices to Maine students through their Project 10Million initiative. If they choose to participate, the program provides mobile Wi-Fi hotspot devices directly to school districts for student use.
“We are thrilled to partner with T-Mobile to continue providing opportunities that allow Maine students to stay connected to their teachers, peers, and school communities,” said Maine Commissioner of Education Pender Makin. “The partnership helps to expand our own Connect Kids Now! initiative which supports Maine schools by providing internet connectivity through the pandemic.”
The Connect Kids Now! initiative began in the spring of 2020 at the onset of the pandemic when it became abundantly clear that technology resources were critical in closing the equity of access gap for continued learning for Maine students. In line with this these efforts, T-Mobile’s Project 10Million initiative provides the opportunity for districts in Maine to participate by signing up and choosing from three tiers of service which they can pass on to students at no cost: up to 100GB per year per device for free, or low-cost options for 100GB per month or unlimited data. Part of the commitment of the partnership will be to provide additional devices from T-Mobile over the next five years. T-Mobile will distribute these devices directly to districts and all student households with at least one student participating in the National School Lunch Program are eligible for the program. The Maine DOE will look to include districts based on economic factors such as Title 1 schools, National School Lunch Program eligibility rates, and distressed county designations. Districts can complete an online interest form to participate in the program.
“Partnering with the Maine DOE helps us identify districts and students that will benefit most from Project 10Million and get them the devices and connectivity required to fully participate in school,” said Mike Katz, executive vice president of T-Mobile for Business. “We are grateful to be a part of the solution that Commissioner Makin and her team have put in place to make sure ALL students can access the resources they need to succeed.”
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently adopted a “Report and Order” that established the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, a $3.2 billion federal initiative to help lower the cost of high-speed internet for eligible households during the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.
Benefits of the program include:
Up to $50/month discount for broadband services;
Up to $75/month discount for broadband services for households on Tribal lands; and
A one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet purchased through a participating provider.
The Emergency Broadband Benefit is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per eligible household.
A household is eligible if one member of the household:
Qualifies for the Lifeline program, including those who are on Medicaid or receive SNAP benefits;
Receives benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision, or did so in the 2019- 2020 school year;
Experienced a substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020, and the household had a total income in 2020 below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers;
Received a Federal Pell Grant in the current award year; or
Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program.
The FCC expects the Emergency Broadband Benefit program to be open to eligible households before the end of April, 2021. Please check the FCC’s website regularly for the latest information. Once up and running, eligible households will be able to enroll through participating broadband providers or directly with the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC).
NLS Publishes New Regulations: Medical Doctor Certification No Longer Required for Reading Disabilities
We’re pleased to inform you of important regulatory changes that should ease access to accessible formats of materials for students with reading disabilities, including dyslexia.
In March of 2020, we sent a notification about changes to U.S. copyright law that have an impact on students served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and may also qualify to receive accessible formats of materials derived from the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS). At that time, the Library of Congress Technical Corrections Act of 2019 had amended terminology for persons eligible to receive accessible materials consistent with the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act (MTIA).
On February 12, 2021, the National Library Service (NLS) published the regulations that go along with the Library of Congress Technical Corrections Act of 2019. In addition to expanding the list of persons who may certify a student’s eligibility for accessible formats, the Library of Congress removed the requirement for certification by a medical doctor for those with reading disabilities. Educators, school psychologists, and certified reading specialists are now among the professionals authorized to certify students with reading disabilities.
The National AEM Center will be providing technical assistance to states and districts to support the implementation of these changes. Our team welcomes any immediate questions or concerns. Please contact us at email@example.com.
In these otherwise challenging times, we’re relieved to celebrate this advancement in access with you, your students, and their families.
Director of Technical Assistance, CAST
Director of the National AEM Center
While the new guidelines are important for NSL users, they also have an impact on National Instructional Materials Access Standard – NIMAS eligibility criteria. The revised Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 – IDEA 2004 requires that students have an IEP and a qualifying disability in order to be eligible for materials produced from NIMAS. For the qualifying disability criterion, the legislation points to the NLS guidelines. For this reason, it is recommended that all National Instructional Materials Access Center – NIMAC users review the new guidelines.
A significant and positive change for NIMAS noted is that the pool of professionals that qualify to certify eligibility has been expanded to read:
(2) Eligibility must be certified by one of the following: doctor of medicine, doctor of osteopathy, ophthalmologist, optometrist, psychologist, registered nurse, therapist, and professional staff of hospitals, institutions, and public or welfare agencies (such as an educator, a social worker, case worker, counselor, rehabilitation teacher, certified reading specialist, school psychologist, superintendent, or librarian).
The NIMAC will soon be updating its Limitation of Use Agreements and Coordination Agreements to incorporate the updated language, and providing additional guidance related to the change.
Jessi Wright, MBA, ATP has been named the new Director for the Maine CITE Program, the Assistive Technology (AT) program for the state of Maine. Jessi began her duties on February 1, 2021.
Jessi was previously the Director of the West Virginia State Assistive Technology Program located at the West Virginia University Center for Excellence in Disabilities.
Jessi has worked in the disability field for over 15 years, ten years of which were with state assistive technology programs. She has extensive experience in disability services program management and is recognized as a national leader in the assistive technology field with knowledge of AT services, training, data management, funding, and grant writing.
Personally, Jessi grew up with an aunt with Down Syndrome and has provided caregiving support to friends and family with varying disabilities. She also identifies as a person with a disability. As a user of AT, she fully understands the potential life changing benefits of AT and has dedicated her career to educating and helping others achieve independence and an increased quality of life through the use of AT.
As a photography, nature and travel enthusiast, Jessi is looking forward to exploring all the adventures Maine has to offer. She plans to spend her down time camping, hiking and kayaking in the beautiful state of Maine. Jessi is also looking forward to trying out winter recreation activities such as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing as well. You may also find her checking out a local hockey game or live music event around the state.
The Maine CITE Program, located at the University of Maine Augusta, is the statewide AT program, administered by the Maine Department of Education and funded by the federal Administration for Community Living. Maine CITE provides information, training, and services about AT, manages the statewide device demo, loan, and reuse programs, and provides technical assistance to organizations and individuals. Maine CITE’s online searchable AT inventory, AT4Maine, has more than 1000 devices available for demo and loan that can be accessed at the website, AT4Maine.org.
Maine CITE also administers the Maine Accessible Educational Materials Program (Maine AEM) which provides information, training, and technical assistance to educators to ensure educational content and communications are accessible to all.
Located near Boston, CAST is a nonprofit education research and development organization that created the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework and Guidelines, now used the world over to make learning more inclusive.
Register now for the 7th Annual CAST UDL Symposium!
2020 was a year for the history books, challenging us to make dramatic, unexpected changes quickly. We also confirmed that radical change in teaching and learning is possible. But 2020 also illuminated barriers to learning like never before. How do we ensure that the future is intentionally planned in a way that achieves the outcomes we hope for?
The 7th Annual CAST UDL Symposium will highlight promising work taking place in the field and will also serve as a forum to think about how we can begin to intentionally design for a better future right now. This year’s event is not about UDL as it has always been done. It is about the dramatic changes that we hope to see in the future and the innovations that can lead us there. Join us for a learning and networking experience filled with connected conversations that elevate our thinking around UDL and the future designed.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has published the First Call Public Working Draft of its Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 3.0,which are developed through the W3C process in cooperation with individuals and organizations around the world. WCAG 3.0 provides new ways to evaluate web content accessibility for people with disabilities by addressing more types of disabilities, concentrating on both mobile and desktop applications, and developing new tests and scoring to determine accessibility.
While WCAG 3.0 would succeed WCAG 2.1 and 2.0, it would not deprecate these earlier versions. WCAG 3.0 covers a wider set of user and disability needs, publishing requirements, and emerging technologies such as web XR (augmented, virtual, and mixed reality) and voice input. WCAG 3.0 also includes non-normative information about web technologies working in conjunction with authoring tools, user agents, and assistive technologies. The WCAG 3.0 model is designed to support better coverage across disabilities and be easier to maintain so that the model keeps pace with accelerating technology change.
Since the late 1990s, the Board and the WCAG working groups have engaged in ongoing collaboration to make web content more accessible to users with disabilities. The Board’s original Section 508 Standards (2000) cited WCAG 1.0 and included a mapping between specific WCAG 1.0 checkpoints and 508 provisions. The refreshed 508 Standards (2017) incorporate significant portions of WCAG 2.0 by reference.
Apple has published a new resource for educators about using iPad for learning. Separated into four sections: Connect, Collaborative, Creative, and Personal, the resource PDF provides information on topics such as accessibility, productivity, creative projects for learners and apps for education. In addition, the resource provides links to free curricular and learning resources and professional learning opportunities.
UNAR Labs, an early stage Maine-based startup with a mission to empower people with vision impairment via multisensory information access using touchscreen-based smartphones and tablets. UNAR Labs researchers are seeking individuals for paid participation in a study to understand and identify the best tactile guidelines, conversion/translation parameters, and embossing strategies used in traditional tactile graphics generation processes. The researchers believe that insights from experts in the field will guide them in designing a meaningful prototype software system for enabling blind and visually-impaired users with access to digital graphical materials.
The commitment is an interview (zoom or phone) with field experts involved in the process of generating braille and tactile graphics. The interviewee may be tactile artists, braille transcribers, braille proofreaders, tactile graphic prepress support staff, and braille/tactile graphics transcribers. Researchers are also interested in shadowing staff at work to better understand workflow, recognize steps used in information down-sampling and the overall conversion/production process; this, of course, will need to take into consideration health and safety during this time of the spread of the coronavirus.
Each interview will take approximately 30-60 minutes. Qualified participants will be compensated $20/hour (Amazon gift card) for their participation (prorated at $5 per 15 minutes). Researchers would like to conduct interviews in the next 2-3 weeks so please don’t delay your response.